28 December 2008

Sale! Sale! Sale!

Ahhhhhh, who doesn't like hearing those words? After talking to my soapbud, Shawna, last night, hearing about her plans for her business this year and realizing that I have no real plans for mine (as of yet, though I acknowledge that can and will change), I started thinking about what products I wanted to highlight and which ones I wanted to get rid of. With a hopeful, possible move in the next six months or so, I definitely want to scale down the lagging portion of my inventory and get rid of some scents.

So, the first thing I decided to do was to mark down some of my handcasted soaps. Right now for a limited time, two-tone swirled soaps are 25% off. I'm also discounting my Just Plain Soaps (the glycerin ones), 25% off. Quantities on these are limited, so I recommend using the "Contact Us" link and either calling or emailing me to verify the quantity of your chosen soap that's in stock. However, they'll be like Christmas snow (remember this from "Frosty the Snowman"?) - these scents won't be gone for good. They'll be back in handmade soaps, brilliantly scented, most with lovely colors or swirls and still just as functional, only of a much higher quality.

I've also discounted a few of my holiday soaps, including Apple Jack soap, Christmas Spice soap and Hanukkah soap (also appropriate for other Jewish holidays, as well as just a general appreciation for Jewish culture). Also on sale, my goat's milk lotion in Christmas scents. If you've ever tried the Nutcracker scent and loved it, - or maybe have wanted to try it - now's the time to pick some up. My supplier has discontinued that scent (to my utter and cOmPlEtE disappointment), so when I run out of it, I won't be able to get any more. Well, I'm sure they'll let me buy the 50-gallon drum of the scent on a special order, but where in the world would I store it??? I guess I could put it where the kitchen table is and place a piece of plywood on top and let it double as our kitchen table. I'm not so sure my husband would groove with that, though.

Shop happy, and look for new products to come in the next few months. Looks like I'll be filling that new curing rack sooner than even I had anticipated.

24 December 2008

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Well, Christmas is very nearly here. The trees are trimmed, the stockings are hung and the presents are wrapped... sort of. This is the day when those in my household are scurrying through the house, furtively clutching bags to our chests, hoping others don't see them. There are the hollers, "Honey, where are you?" "Up here." "OK, stay there." Bags and receipts are quickly stashed under furniture (thank goodness for skirts on chairs!), to be put in a better place at the first good opportunity.

Hot spiced cider is meditating in the slow cooker on the kitchen counter. Fresh-baked cookies are waiting to be set out on a plate for Santa. Christmas music plays on the radio, leading to impromptu singing and dancing as we enjoy the day. Later, my daughter and I will be baking coconut cakes for tomorrow, and I'm sure my husband will take maximum advantage of our distraction.

Then, tonight, things will slow down considerably. After dinner, we'll head out to the local Moravian church for their Christmas Eve Lovefeast service, something I've wanted to experience for several years. We'll enjoy koinonia (Christian fellowship), agape (Christian love) and that sense of being kindred, as we enjoy music and the opportunity just to stop... and reflect and meditate on the true meaning of Christmas. Afterwards, the Princess will be asleep, and Hubby and I will put in "It's a Wonderful Life" (his favorite holiday movie) as we assemble Santa gifts.

Then we will go to bed, warm, comfortable, snuggled in each other's arms, trying to grab as much sleep as possible before we hear "Mommy, did Santa come last night?" And in the warm, quiet night as we drift off, I'll remember a night - just as cold, if not colder - more than 2,000 years ago, when a young new mother had only a feeding trough in which to lay her newborn son, and there was no escaping the drafts of cold wind creeping through the stable. There was little sleep to be had that night, as animals lowed and stirred and shepherds came calling, telling her and her husband what they knew: "Unto you is born this day, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."

Merry Christmas, everyone! Peace on Earth, and goodwill to all people.

21 December 2008

Break Time! - Coffee Break, that is

I'm happy to say that the Coffee Break sets are all ready to go! These took a lot longer than expected to cure, but the results are very well worth it; I'm quite pleased with how they turned out. Each set features a coffee-scented soap with a cream "swirl" in a coffee cup and two slices (approximately 3 ounces each) of Cinnamon Coffee Cake scented soap. They come in two sizes, small and large.

The small Coffee Break set includes 6 ounces of Coffee Soap and two 3-ounce slices of Cinnamon Coffee Cake. They sell for $15.00 each.

The larger size comes with 8 ounces of Coffee soap (2 4-ounce bars, sliced across) and two 3-ounce slices of Cinnamon Coffee Cake soap. These sell for $20.00 each.

No two Coffee Cup soaps are completely identical; each has a slightly different swirl pattern. Quantities are limited on these. I have 2 small sets and 3 large sets, so if you have a coffee lover on your list, now's the time to snatch these up!

They will be posted to my website later today.

16 December 2008

Light up your world

There are some luxuries in life that are not to be missed. At the same time, there are some lovely luxuries that are rather necessary. Soap, for example... We have to have soap to get clean. It bonds with the dirt and germs on skin and washes down the drain.

Well, some products are just pure luxuries, like the joy of enjoying a relaxing bath. Just think of it. It's cold outside with winds and snow over much of the country. Christmas is next week, and you might be frazzled with holiday parties, shopping and meal planning. So, you just need a few minutes, a 30-minute vacation, a little time to yourself away from to-do lists, demands and commitments. Tub teas are a fantastic way to enjoy the aromatherapeutic, greatly beneficial tub bath. Ooh La La-vender is my personal favorite, though they're all divine.

Then there's the rest of the pleasure. It's so simple, really. Wouldn't it be so wondrous to have an array of votive candles around the bathroom, providing golden, ambient, delightfully fragrant light?

Check out LKay Creations for all your candle needs. Linda is the owner, and she's got an amazing array of scents available and makes only pure soy candles and tarts. Soy burns cleaner and has a fantastic scent throw. She does provide free scent samples to help you decide which luscious scent would be best for you. I chose a Spiced Cranberry candle, Water Blossom Ivy tarts and Summer Night tarts to give as Christmas gifts, and I have been very pleased with the service and the quality of the products. Even better, candles are those little luxuries that can become quite necessary when the power goes out.

So, enjoy a bit of luxury, a bit of relaxation, a bit of "me time" to help you unwind and recapture the true spirit of Christmas.

Oh, how embarrassing!

I have Google Analytics on my website, which helps me track how many hits my website gets each day. I didn't hit my site yesterday, nor did I have any maintenance to do on it. When I checked my Analytics this morning, I was shocked to see that my site had no hits yesterday! This never happens! I was checking on something for a local phone customer/friend on my website this afternoon, only to discover that an element had crashed, bringing the whole site down with it! Ack! Usually, website maintenance takes a few hours - 3 hours and 55 minutes to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it (with a combination of the Zen Cart FAQs section, the ZC forums and my ZC manual) - then 5 minutes to fix it and check it. I was tired this afternoon and really didn't want to deal with it while my daughter was napping; I wanted to take advantage of the quiet and the grey, cold, rainy day. However, as soon as I woke up, I tackled the issue and was pleasantly surprised that the whole fix only took about ten or fifteen minutes. I'm happy to say that the website is completely fixed and back to being operational.

In another embarrassing moment, I was getting an order ready for a customer and discovered I'm out of Black Cat (Perfect Pumpkin scent) soaps. So, I'm calling these "out of stock," but if your heart is set on this soap, it doesn't take long to make it.

To my loyal customers and site visitors, I'm sorry for the inconvenience. All is not lost, and there's still two days left to get orders in for Christmas delivery.

13 December 2008

Domestic Goddess at Work

Most people don't think it's enough that I make my own spectacular soaps. Some people know that I put together my own flower arrangements, love to cook, and have created my own Christmas wreaths. That, however, is where the domestic deity-esque traits come to an end.

Until today.

For those of you who may've just woken up from a coma or have been in space for the past year, now's as good a time as any to tell you we're in a recession. And not like a recession's bad enough - I can pretty creatively stretch a dollar if I have to - but a recession on top of Christmas is a nightmare! It's one thing to make that dollar stretch to cover food, rent and bills, but adding presents on top of that is a challenge. Well, as sometimes happens, I had the money in hand, I went to the grocery store and I forgot laundry detergent with at least three loads in queue. Yea. I trotted upstairs to start at least the first load, thinking that I had enough detergent to get something accomplished before I had to run buy more later. I'm pouring the detergent into the lid... And a bit pours out... Then it slows to a trickle... And I've got not even an ounce of detergent in there. Hrmmmmm, what to do?

Then I remembered...

A few months ago, I started researching homemade laundry soap with the intent of making my own. The main thing is, the soap for laundry soap needs to be a bit more on the harsher side, and I just haven't had the time to make a batch like that. I did have one leftover bar, though, that pretty much crumbled the moment I tried to cut it, so I ran it through the food processor and turned it into powder. It's just been sitting and meditating on the meaning of life for a while now. This morning, I turned it into laundry soap by combining 2 parts soap to 1 part borax to 1 part washing soda. It seems to be working pretty well, though the real test will be my husband's nasty work clothes.

It only takes 2 tablespoons (one ounce) of the laundry powder to get the clothes clean. It doesn't lather or bubble like detergents do, but that's the trade-off when using a natural product. Besides, it's not the bubbles that get clothes clean; it's the soap itself. The borax softens water and the washing soda is a laundry booster.

Yes, I'm quite well aware I told you how I made my laundry soap. After all, you can Google to find the directions. I just figure, ya know, we're all in this recession together. Even if you happen to be reading this post from the office in your Paris flat, the recession's still impacting you, too. Some soapmakers are just soooooooo snooty about their formulas and techniques, believing that they're so much better than everyone else, that they won't even think of sharing even the simplest recipe. However, these ingredients are easy for everyone to find, and I'm certainly happy to share even this small way of making life a little easier and cheaper for everyone dealing with financial hardships, or maybe just those who are looking for a healthier, greener way to wash clothes.

01 December 2008

The EPA Show - My Big One of the Year

It may seem sort of silly, that this show, this one event - 6 hours one day a year - would be my big one of the year, but it is. I don't run the show circuit like some crafters do (more power to them!), so I select the shows in which I participate very carefully. The EPA one has been my favorite and best event for the 6 years I've been doing it. It's always a pleasure to me to see returning customers and new ones. Many of these customers will only buy from me this one time a year, but that's OK.

So many of these fine people have done a lot over the years to boost my business - faithful patronage, patience on special orders and sharing their love of my products to others - that I wanted to give a little something back. Soooooo... I'm offering a special coupon for EPA employees. For a limited time, enjoy 25% off your purchase. Use coupon code EPA25 at checkout, and when choosing a shipping option, choose "store pickup" if you'd like me to deliver it to the office. Follow-up sales from this event always get free delivery.

Thanks everyone, for yet another great year with you, and I look forward to seeing y'all next year! :)

19 November 2008

Need a Coffee Break?

Last month, I got this wild idea to make coffee cup soaps and coffee cake soaps. I would package them together and call it a "Coffee Break." It was something of an adventure, because the idea included actually moulding the CP soap in coffee cups. When moulding CP soaps, it really helps to use something flexible or something out of which the soap will come easily. Usually I use slab or box moulds - lined - and I can pull the soap out by the liner. I didn't want those odd lines in my soaps, so I didn't line the cups. Instead, I greased them heavily with Vaseline (soapmakers' trick) and then poured the soap in.

The soap is a delight. I used coffee in the water phase and a yummy Coffee Bean FO for the scent. It's a great wake-up, and the soap itself is very moisturizing and skin-nourishing. I finally got the soaps out of the cups this week. They're a bit soft, but I'm confident they'll harden up nicely.

Well, you can't very well have coffee without coffee cake, right? I made the coffee cake soap a few weeks ago and scented it with Cinnamon Coffee Cake fragrance. It really does smell good enough to eat. Here's what that soap looks like...

It'll be a week-and-a-half before I even think about packaging these, as I want to give the soaps the maximum amount of time to cure before I get them ready to sell. The price will be dependent on the final weight of the soaps, but figure that each coffee cup yields two bars, and each set will come with two bars of the coffee cake soap, so that's like getting 4 bars of soap in each set. These will make great gifts for the coffee lovers on your list!

More on Getting Rebatched

In this post, I'd talked about how God rebatches us. I was talking earlier today to a faithful Christian man (my former stylist at Sheer Bliss), and was telling him about that entry on rebatching. Michael said, "And you keep your hand on the soap the whole time, just like the Master does us." Excellent point and a connection I hadn't made before. I thought more about it on the way home, and I thought also of the one time I don't have my hand on the soap, and that's when it's in the oven cooking. However, I don't leave it alone. It's not like I pop it into the oven and go to bed or trot out to run errands. Nope, I stay close to the oven where I can use my nose to make sure it's not overcooking and check on it every so often. I stir it and make sure it's fully gelling, too. So, even though my hand's not on it, I'm still right there with it, just as God's still with us, even through the entire rebatching process.

12 November 2008

Nurturing the Creative Urge

There's just something about this time of year that makes me want to be creative - way beyond the usual soaps and body products. It's at this time of year that I want to sew stuff (even though I don't sew), or knit scraves (don't knit), or create these great Christmas centerpieces that'd make Martha Stewart weep with envy. I indulged my creative side yesterday, taking a little break from the frenetic soapmaking and lotion making of the past month. I made salt dough ornaments with cinnamon in them. They were surprisingly easy to make, and I made them in shapes that are going to be fun to decorate - snowman, teddy bear, tree, mitten, heart, and, of course, Gingerbread Boy and Girl. While they cooked, our entire townhouse had this amazing cinnamon, "Home for the Holidays" scent to it.

In the interest of getting something accomplished - and I do still have a business to run - I made some Smelly Jellies (new goodie I'm adding to my product line) while my ornaments were cooking. For these, I chose such delicious holiday scents as Orange Pomander, Cinnamon & Clove and Frasier Fir. Can you just imagine it? Picture if you'd walked into my house, with the scents of cinnamon, clove, orange and fir greeting you as you opened the door. You'd have expected to see a tree in the corner and spiced cider simmering on the stove. I'm glad I did these, because the cinnamon was such a comforting scent that it helped me relax for a bit and experience a bit of calm in the midst of the "Silly Season" chaos.

I'll post pictures of the ornaments when they're painted. Some of these we'll give away, and perhaps I'll sell a few. Who knows? They're going to be fabulous on a tree, because when the heat from the lights hits them, it'll release the cinnamon smell. I might have to hang one in my car. What better way to stay calm during traffic?

30 October 2008

No, it's not soap scum

I don't mind saying, this burns me. I saw an ad last night for Dove Beauty Bar claiming that soap leaves soap scum behind, but their "beauty bar" rinses clean. That's not soap scum that real soap leaves behind. One of the by-products of the soapmaking process is glycerin, which is a humectant. Humectants, like glycerin (honey is also one), draw moisture from the air to your skin, moisturizing it with water, nature's most perfect moisturizer. You want soap to leave glycerin on your skin. This is a good thing. Dove Beauty Bars aren't soap. Yes, they may look like soap, but chemically, they're not saponified oils; they're detergent bars. If they were real soap, there'd be no need for them to add "1/4 moisture cream" or to push their lotions.

When you use real soap like the ones I sell, two important things happen to your skin. One, the soap molecules bind with dirt and germs on your skin. Soap doesn't actually stick to skin, so in binding with the dirt, it lifts the dirt to be washed away when you rinse the soap off. Two, the soap leaves behind a thin, invisible layer of glycerin. The glycerin draws moisture from the air and brings it to your skin, so you get clean and moisturized in one step.

Now, there is a caveat to this. If you live in a very dry environment, the glycerin will draw moisture out of your skin, leaving it dry. You'd need to follow with a moisturizing lotion. One trick I use to get the maximum benefit from the glycerin as we head to dry winter months here in North Carolina is... Well, I make my morning routine work for me. After my shower, I take my vitamins and floss and brush my teeth. While I'm doing that, I leave the bathroom door closed, trapping the steam from my shower in the bathroom with me. While I'm tending to my teeth, the glycerin from my soap is drawing that moisture in the bathroom to my skin, making it silky and soft. I seldom have to use lotion and if I do choose to use it, it's for the scent.

29 October 2008

I know you're out there... I can hear you breathing

You're reading my blog, then you decide to see for yourself what the excitement's all about, so you find a convenient link and head on over to my website. You poke around, check out my wares, but then you leave. What's up with that? What would it take to entice you to try for yourself the superior soaps, bath and body products offered by Sara's Soaps 'n Such?

Maybe if I told you something about the products? The colorful handcrafted soaps that grace
"The Soap Table" are made of high quality glycerin soap base and a luscious assortment of scents. Sure, a lot of people buy these soaps to admire in a bathroom or to give as gifts for other people to admire in someone else's bathroom, but there are also "functional" soaps to complement the "fancy" ones. (All my soaps are very safe for use, by the way.) The handmade soaps that share space on "The Soap Table" are made of the finest ingredients in small batches - usually 3-4 pounds - to ensure the highest quality product. I formulate each soap batch to create a luxurious, bubbly soap that's nourishing for your skin and a treat for your nose. My personal favorites are Ooh La La-vender and The Soap of Milk & Honey (and Oatmeal).

Now, what about those scruptious body treats standing at attention on
The Such Table? Goat's milk lotion deep conditions skin while delectable scents provide a light perfume. My Revitalizing Body Polish is a spa treat for the shower, exfoliating and moisturizing in one easy step. Then there are my all natural products... Tea Tree Balm to soothe away rashes and bug bite itches. Bath Teas to relax and rejuvenate both body and mind. Lip Balms that nourish and moisturize lips in yummy natural flavors. And my best seller, Go Away Bugs!, my 100% natural mosquito repellant that's DEET free, making it safe for all ages and sensitivities.

Still not convinced you really need to buy my luxurious, handcrafted, high quality bath and body products for yourself or to share with someone else? How about I sweeten the deal? Just for you blog readers out there, take 15% off your purchase of $20.00 or more (before shipping) between now and 30 November 2008. Just enter coupon code NEWCUST15 at checkout. Hurry! This offer won't be around forever and, really, won't it be nice to have a few Christmas gifts out of the way? (Christmas products coming 1 November, so check back for them.)

28 October 2008

Simple Pleasures

Often in the midst of enjoying the relatively new-found - OK, so it's now been 6 months already! - pleasure of making soap completely from scratch, it's easy to forget the simple pleasure of a well-poured tray of handcasted soaps. This week I've been trying to get my Christmas shaped soaps restocked. One such soap is my Gingerbread guest soap, which I color with a pretty brown spice. There's a simple pleasure in seeing the soap from the bottom of the mould and noting that it's so well mixed that the colorant didn't settle to the bottom, giving me pretty, uniform speckles.

Today was one of those chilly, blustery Fall days that make you pull out the winter coat and dream of hot drinks in the evening. I poured my soaps, did some dishes and paid some bills. In fact, it was such a quiet day that I had time to enjoy a good book and take a power nap before running my afternoon errands. When I woke up from my nap, I looked out the back door and saw this plethora of bright colors. It's like all the leaves had changed when I wasn't looking, transforming our back wooded area into a kaleidoscope of brilliant yellows, reds, oranges and greens. Seeing all those lovely Fall leaves was a nice, simple pleasure.

Finally my daughter and I came home, and the starter for Amish Friendship Bread that my friend Cookie gave me was ready to become bread. Amish Friendship Bread takes 10 days and about half an hour of prep time to make, then another hour to bake. It's active. You get to mush it up in a bag every day, and seven days into the process, you add sugar, flour and milk to it. Then you mush it some more. The fun part to watch is, after adding the sugar, it reacts with the yeast and releases carbon dioxide, which causes bubbles and makes the bag puff up. Sunday morning, we discovered that the expanding bag will also push stuff off the counter if it's in its way.

Anyway, my daughter and I donned aprons and got to work on our bread. We also sectioned out some starter to share with our friends, and I'm trying to decide if I want to keep the fourth bag of starter (you're supposed to, according to the directions), or give it away, too. I think it can be frozen, which will be a good idea, as I can save it for closer to the holidays. The mixture makes 2 full-size loaves, and our first one is in the oven as I type this and smelling awesome! Besides the very long prep time for this bread in our "gotta have it now" society, the instructions say that you can't use metal in the mixing at all. This means using a plastic bowl (melamine in our case, but I use them for mixing all the time, anyway) and mixing it with a spoon by hand. I don't even mix my soap by hand! Sometimes the simplest ways bring the most pleasure.

27 October 2008

A Very Fair Day

I took yesterday off from soapmaking to enjoy the NC State Fair with my family. We had a blast!!! My daughter is at that age now where she's really into the rides, which made it hard for my husband and me to enjoy the buildings and displays. We didn't even make it into some of our "must do" buildings (we always enjoy the really creative garden displays). Hubby and I alternated riding the rides with her, and we let her ride one ride by herself, which thrilled her to no end! As my daughter and I rode this one ride called the Traffic Jam (yep, it was a kiddie ride), I thought to myself, Wow, for three tickets, this is a pretty good ride. I've discovered that she likes speed; the faster the ride goes, the happier she is. I also thought it was pretty cool that she was putting her arms up in the air and stuff like that. When I was her age, I was still clinging to the bar.

In addition to the tons of samples, it felt like we ate all day long. We ate breakfast there at the Apex Lion's Club concession stand (we always pick this place because we know the food's gonna be good). Mmmmmmm... For me, a sausage biscuit where the biscuit was a scratch-made buttermilk biscuit and a bowl of these absolutely divine grits. (For those of you who may be unfamiliar with grits... It's a hot cereal made with coarse-ground corn. I like mine with butter, sugar and just a titch of salt and pepper.) All I wanted for lunch was a hot dog, and then before we left, we got funnel cake and Hubby just had to try this year's deep-fried goodie, deep fried pecan pie. I tasted it, and really, it wasn't that bad, but I think I'll stick with my funnel cake, thank you very much.

Standing tall right beside Dorton Arena on the fairgrounds is the Ruth Graham Memorial Waterfall. Mrs. Graham is the late wife of Jim Graham, who was the NC Commissioner of Agriculture for many, many years. She died of Alzheimer's Disease, and the money collected in the fountain goes towards Alzheimer's research. We always sit by this fountain to enjoy our funnel cake and to catch our breath before battling the crowds heading out of (and some coming into) the Fair. After the last bite of funnel cake is gone and I've brushed as much of the powdered sugar off as I can get, I toss my change into the fountain, wishing, as always, for a cure for this disease. Up until 2005, I wished for a cure - one to come quickly - so my Grandma would be made well. After her death in Spring 2005, I wished for a cure so others wouldn't have to know the pain of watching a loved one slowly die little by little from this dreadful disease.

25 October 2008

Just when I thought it was safe to get back into the kitchen...

After a few weeks of experimenting with new techniques, creating new scents and even re-experiencing the simple pleasure of a measuring cup filled with beautifully colored melted soap base this afternoon, I decided I needed to rebatch some soaps that, for all intents and purposes, looked and felt like they'd glycerin sweated inside their wrapping. I shredded the bars and drizzled a little milk over them, same as I always do. I let it meditate for a few hours, covered, before placing the bowl in a warm oven for 2 hours. While that was going on, we put our daughter to bed, and I was nestled in on the sofa watching some shows I'd taped this past week.

Then I heard it. The subtle click of the oven as it controlled its own temperature. I looked at the clock on my laptop and realized, Oh, crap! I'd forgotten about my soap!!! On the plus side, I'd only gone over by about ten minutes. On the negative side, though, I was rebatching a much smaller amount than my usual three-pound batches. I opened the oven door and carefully pulled back the aluminum foil to discover my soap had volcanoed (though, thankfully, stayed in the bowl, so no oven mess) and it was the lovely brown of rich, luscious, high-grade honey. This soap started out cream-colored. It maintained its fragrance and doesn't smell burnt, so I'm hoping it's OK. I added a bit more tea tree oil to make up for any that may have gotten burned off in the oven and glumped it into my mould. It's going to be OK, but I've never had a rebatch do this to me before!

*Sigh* One of my soap buds and I keep our chat window open all day, and I knew she'd had some bad soaping luck today, too. I told her there really should be a sign when it's not a good day for soaping - one that comes before we start the process.

24 October 2008

New Goodies for the Holidays

Wow! It's hard to believe that Halloween is just a week away! It seems like just last week it was warm and toasty enough here in central North Carolina to get by wearing shorts and t-shirts. Oh, wait. It was last week when it was that warm. Now Autumn is well and truly upon us with beautifully changing leaves, cool days and brisk breezes that cause the leaves to crackle against each other.

When Halloween's past, then I get to roll out all the delightful and fun Christmas soaps I've been working on and likely will continue working on until the very last minute. These here are one such delight. I created a custom fragrance that I call Christmas By The Sea, a scent reminescent of our annual trips to the coast for the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla. I borrowed the name from this shop that used to be on the island where we always vacation.

Christmas By The Sea (the shop) was a charming Christmas store with everything you could want for Christmas - villages, trees, wreathes, ornaments, garlands and gifts. Twelve years ago, my then-boyfriend took me down there (thinking he'd surprise me and not realizing I knew this shop well) to find an angel for the Christmas tree I had in my apartment. When we arrived, we discovered that the Flotilla was going on that evening, so we stuck around for it before driving back home.

Since then, the shop (unfortunately) has closed, but the Flotilla continues. That first Flotilla became the start of an Advent tradition for us. The then-boyfriend is now my husband of almost 9 1/2 years, and the joy of watching the Flotilla continues and is something we share as a family. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the angel I bought then still graces our tree, year after year.

That's a lot to go into an unassuming bar of soap, isn't it? Happiness, memories, the tang of fresh cut greenery as it meets the scent of home and sea. It's all here in Christmas By The Sea. Look for it in a few weeks, but it will be ready in plenty of time for the holidays, and even in time for pre-Christmas giving.

14 October 2008

What to do? What to do?

Here in the midst of silly season as I'm trying to get everything together, I'm now insanely thinking, "Ya know, a home party might be fun." Um, do what??? Home parties are a lot of work, and the last open house I hosted didn't have many attendees. So what makes me think I want to do it again? I can't really say. For one, I think it'd be a lot of fun. We can laugh, be silly and take a bit of time to pamper ourselves. Two, it'd be a good boost to late-year sales, which I'm anticipating being pretty good, though I wouldn't be surprised if they were down from last year. Three... Well, I keep coming back to that "fun" thing. What do y'all think?

There are some considerations. I took time off from my part-time retail job just to get all this fall stuff done. It freed us up when Hubby had to work Saturdays so I could be home with our daughter. It enabled me to enjoy her break from school with her, without having to think, "We're not going to get any family time this weekend." And I've certainly been busy enough. Then there was that vicious autumn cold that attacked me and still is reluctant to leave me alone. Those are the positives. The negative is, obviously, the loss of that extra income and while it's not a whole lot, it certainly does help. I could still do the open house if I were back at work, but it'd be a bit more difficult.

In the meantime, I'm preparing for November's First Sunday, my big show which falls on 1 December this year, and, on top of both of those exciting events, I'm going to be submitting samples to Little Black Boxes for this month's sample boxes and also to Out of the Box for November's sample packs. I'm busily wrapping soap samples for LBB and today I ordered the bottles and lids for OOTB's samples. Both companies seem to be very well operated and the contact I've had with the owners has been nothing but positive.

21 September 2008

Budding Young Photographer

Natural Pumpkin Spice
Yep, I'm probably starting to sound a bit like that mean magician in "Frosty the Snowman" who wants his hat back and says everything three times. Silly season is fast approaching and I'm running to catch up. It doesn't help that I came back from a fairly relaxing vacation at the beach sick with a cold that's left me feverish, hacking and physically worn out. Nor does it help that it seems all my Soap Buds are making soap when I barely have the strength to lift a spoon. It seems all I can do lately is be online to give guidance, encouragement, pithy comments and suggestions. The forced inactivity has given me the quiet time and space to edit and upgrade product pictures - with a little help from a young budding photographer.

She's only 5, but already she's showing an amazing talent for photography. It started last weekend at a wedding for my sister-in-law. My in-laws had put disposable cameras on the tables for guests to take pictures, and my daughter got a hold of one. We don't know, yet, how they turned out, but she was certainly enthusiastic. Last night I decided to see how she does with a camera and (crazily) let her get her hands on our nice digital camera to take some pictures of my Natural Pumpkin Spice soaps. I helped her with the mechanics of operating the camera - a digital isn't quite as simple as a point-and-shoot with a manual film wind - but once she figured that out, she was good to go. Later that night I was reviewing the pictures, trying to decide which one I wanted to go through the trouble of editing for my website. My husband was looking over my shoulder as I did this, admiring the photos.
Finally, we decided. All but two were good (one was badly off-centered and another one was out of focus as she was trying to get used to the behavior of the camera), so it was a difficult decision. I cropped, I lightened and the photo above of the soaps is her work. I'm very proud of her and pleased to see this manifestation of another of her Daddy's gifts and talents in her.

27 August 2008

"This stuff WORKS!"

It's always good to know my soaps effectively clean and moisturize, but then again, I or anyone in my family could tell you that. We're the reason I can never claim "Not tested on animals," because my husband, daughter, friends and parents become my guinea pigs for each batch. What feels good, though, I'll admit, is finding out my soaps will not just take care of the routine, run-of-the-mill, every day dirt, but that they'll also do the job against serious dirt, too.

This is a small part of Jim, one of my best friends. Anti-seize

Jim's really into motorcycles - he has two Buell's - and, like most dedicated bikers, he does his own maintenance work. The silver stuff all over his finger is Anti-Seize. It's an aluminum-impregnated grease that not only lubricates moving parts, but it also keeps them from rusting together. It's thick, it's nasty and it's extremely difficult to wash off.

Jim's also a coffee junky. So when I made my coffee mocha soap, I gave him a bar to test out, thinking he'd use it in the shower. Coffee mocha also has a pretty noticeable vanilla note, which also appealed to him. Here's that soap:

Coffee Mocha Soap

The day after I gave him the soap, Jim IM'ed me, "This stuff WORKS!" I was a bit nonchalant about it: "Well, yes, I know it works. It's soap. It's supposed to." That's when he went on to explain to me about anti-seize and how effective the soap is even against that.

So, give the soap a try. I don't think there's anything magical about the Coffee Mocha scent, or about the little bit of baking cocoa I added for color. I think the magic comes in the soap itself and the fact that's it really, truly soap. Let's face it. Detergent's great for clothes and dishes, but not for skin. Using the mess you get at the grocery store would be like having head-to-toe dishpan hands.

28 July 2008

Getting Rebatched - How God Makes Us Better

Our pastor said yesterday that we're like clay pots that get broken before being put back together in order to be useable. Being a soapmaker and not a potter, I can't help but think in terms of soap, so instead I think that we get rebatched.

First, my reason for not completely agreeing with the broken pot analogy... Broken pots can be mended and glued back together. However, while they're perfectly functional, they still have these vulnerable parts where the cracks are. Glue's not quite as hard as clay that's been kiln-fired, leaving the pot vulnerable to leaks.

When I make soap - or when anyone makes homemade soap, for that matter - there's always the risk that something will go wrong. This doesn't happen often, but it does happen, and a few weeks ago, it happened to me for the first time. I'd made some CPHP soap in cucumber aloe and was attempting to mould it in a plastic tray of guest-sized soaps. Done perfectly, I'd have ended up with 15 1.25-ounce bars of soap that smelled fresh and clean but that also had the nourishing properties of the aloe vera juice I'd put into it. They didn't turn out perfect. The soap itself was fine. It smelled good, the lather was fabulous when I cleaned out the crock pot and it was perfectly functional. However, it wouldn't come out of the mould. I tried. My husband tried. We even let it sit for a few days, thinking it'd shrink up some with its cure and it'd pop right out, but to no avail. The bars ended up rough and ugly. So, I decided, since this was, after all, an experimental batch, to further experiment and rebatch them.

If you're a bar of soap, rebatching is HARD. First, I grated the soap with our cheese grater (sacrificing a fingernail and a bit of a knuckle in the process). Then I put it in a bowl with a bit of warm water and milk for a few hours to let it draw some of the moisture back into it. So, at this point, the soap's been grated or broken and is being rehydrated. Then I stuck it in the oven for a couple of hours so it'd melt. Finally, on a whim, I added a bit of ultramarine green to it for a dash of color. The soap got "broken," changed and heated up before it went back into the mould for several hours in the hopes it'd be pretty and functional at the end.

God does the same thing to us. When we've screwed up, God breaks us, adds things to our lives and makes things pretty hot around us, all to make us into something better. Even when we haven't messed up, even when we're doing all that we should and are walking closely with Him, God still might "rebatch" us to make us into something even better. It's through our own trials, whether we bring them on ourselves or not, that make us better able to serve and help those around us.

The soap did turn out pretty in the end. The top is rough because the soap was thick - as it should be - when I put it in there. However, the soap still smells wonderful and is a lovely green. I'm thinking about sending it to a business a friend owns called The Purple Box to go out to her customers in sample packs.

24 June 2008

Website Launch for Sara's Soaps 'n Such

It's with great joy and no little fanfare that I announce the launching of my new website. It was almost there last week, but I spent two full days tweaking it, improving on it and adding even more amazing new products to it. Please check it out, but even better, order something! The site is http://www.sarassoapsnsuch.com/. It was a labor of love; in fact, a friend of mine compares it to actually being in labor and giving birth. I have to disagree; the website was much harder and took about as long.

So, what's new? Well, you've heard me talking about my homemade soaps ; now you get to check them out. The ingredients are pure; the majority are naturally scented with essential oils, though I do offer scent-free and color-free soaps for those who are sensitive. Quantities are limited on the Ooh La La-vender soaps, but more will be ready in about a week-and-a-half. On the curing rack I also have Ylang Ylang, which will be ready Monday, 30 June, and Blue Ridge Breeze, which will be ready this Friday.

I've also put my bath teas on the website. Each one is a unique blend of flowers, herbs, botanicals and other natural ingredients designed to serve different purposes. My favorite is Ooh La La-vender. Its combination of goat's milk and lavender buds makes for a purely indulgent, very relaxing treat. My daughter, who's so sweet the mosquitos and ants just love nibbling on her, likes Itchin' & Scritchin' Tub Tea. This one is simply a blend of chamomile and oatmeal. Its light scent smells rather like apple-y pineapple, and the ingredients help descrease the size of the bites and provides relief from the itching.

There is even more new stuff in the works, such as lotion bars and an all natural itch-relief balm.

Be well.

11 June 2008

On Becoming

One of the best soaps I make from scratch is my Ooh La La-vender, a goat's milk soap with a purple swirl and a delicious lavender scent. Goat's milk is wildly popular right now for its skin-nourishing properties, and lavender essential oil is always a much sought after aromatherapy scent. While lavender in lotions and MP soaps tends to stay pretty herbaceous/floral, in CP it develops more, resulting in a spicy, herbaceous scent with just the slightest hint of floral underneath. Both men and women have liked it with the men commenting that it's a good lavender, simply because it doesn't smell girly.

While Ooh La La-vender develops into this sensuous soap, able to transport the user to a state of aromatherapy-induced mellowness, the raw soap is anything but sensuous or mellow. In fact, it stinks! Imagine caustic scalded milk that sort of burns your airways when you smell it. That's what this soap smells like as it's in process. The addition of the lavender scent does nothing but layer on an initially strong lavender smell on top of the caustic scalded milk smell. The soap is becoming.

I think we're like that, too. We don't start out "finished," any more than soap does. It takes work - experiences, decisions, beliefs, community - to complete the "becoming" process. Actually, unlike with soap, we as people never finish. Yet, in our process of becoming, sometimes we stink. Sometimes we may be somewhat caustic. Hopefully we're often willing to be raw. We have to interact with people far different from us, just as lye interacts with oils and butters, in order to achieve optimal results. Our hope is that, upon completing this process, or perhaps even during it, other people can use us to enrich their lives, just as a good bar of soap will enrich ours.

22 May 2008

The Homemade Soap Addiction Continues

I've moved from handcrafting MP soaps to also making CP soaps, and now I've drifted over into CPHP (crock pot hot process) soaps. All three of these soapmaking methods are enjoyable. With MP, I get to play with awesome designs and really creative designer soaps. With CP (cold process), I have the ultimate say on exactly what goes into my soaps and how much. I get to lovingly tend to the freshly-poured soap, insulating it, keeping it safe, then waiting more-or-less patiently as it sets up. Then I get to cut it, revealing each slice and in the weeks it takes the soaps to cure and harden, our entire downstairs smells wondrously of the curing soaps.

Once I got comfortable with CP, I decided on a whim to experiment with CPHP. Hot process is actually where soap began. Settlers didn't have weeks to wait for soap to cure. Just imagine a woman standing over a black iron kettle stirring soap with a long wooden spoon over an open flame. That's the root of HP. HP is like CP, only I use heat to speed through the gel phase, so when the soap is ready to pour into the mould, it's actually fully saponified soap. Several hours later when it's completely hardened and ready to unmould, it's ready to use. In short, HP is ready to use immediately, but it takes a week of curing and hardening before it's ready to sell.

HP is fun, because I have the ingredient control of CP, but the more instant gratification of MP. HP doesn't set up pretty, though. It's very glumpy when it's still loose, so the top doesn't look very smooth like with CP. That's OK to me, though. As a fellow soaper said in an online forum we're both on, the rough top just makes it look more homemade. My first batch was Aloe and Tea Tree. The batch I'm working on as I type this is going to be Lemon Verbena. I'm experimenting with an infusion of dandilion flowers as my colorant. As far as I know, it's never been done before. The challenge is finding enough of them to infuse, as well as finding some that haven't been chemically treated. Roadsides are good for this, though I understand that some city and county police officers aren't always so understanding of crafters harvesting wildflowers (read: weeds) on the side of the road, though I didn't have any trouble the day I harvested mine. Once I get this batch done, I'll take some pictures to post.

10 May 2008

Goat's Milk and Lavender Soap and My New Mould

I'm happy to say that my second batch of cold process soap came out (and I mean really came out) much better than my first. My husband built this soap mould for me. It's not very big - 107.something cubic inches, which holds about 4 pounds or so of soap. At this point, however, that's all I want to make in a batch.

Beginning soapmakers are supposed to keep it simple - lye, easily obtained oils, water and maybe scent. We're not supposed to be jazzing up our combinations of oils, using liquids other than water or trying to achieve fancy patterns and effects. I got a little crazy with this batch. First, I opted for goat's milk in place of the water. I had it nice and slushy, and it still turned orange. Then I combined my oils, including shea butter and cocoa butter for super hardness and superior moisturizing. I got to trace in no time!

My new ultramarine violet powder colorant was burning a hole in the colorant shelf, so I had to use it somehow, someway. I pulled a little soap out, colored it, then went to work on the swirls. Fast forward a bit until we're at the next day. The soap has set up completely and is ready to come out of the mould. I cut it into bars, and the swirls impressed me deeply. The majority of the soap is still sort of orangish yellow from the lye/goat's milk mixture. The soap still will clean well, though.

09 May 2008

Doing the seemingly impossible

Most people wouldn't think this is any big deal at all. Then again, most people haven't seen me backing out of my parents' (very straight) driveway and still managing to drop a wheel onto the grass. Generally, I drive very well. I don't take my time getting from Point A to Point B, but overall, I'm a good driver. I'm well experienced at U-turns and getting lost on occasion has given me some great opportunities to practice 3- and 5-point turns. I've gotten better at parallel parking, too. Backing into a parking place, though, especially between two cars, is rather nerve-wracking. I've pretty much always been able to do this in my car, but doing it in my husband's truck when I can't see over the tailgate very well, plus have this trailer hitch sticking a foot off the back is rather more of a challenge.

I've had to get better at it, though, since I use his truck for First Sunday. First Sunday in Pittsboro, NC is a fabulous event, even when the weather's less than beautimous - the people are wonderful and the other vendors are as nice as they can be. However, parking to unload to set up is always something of a challenge. The roads leading into the Historic District are all two-lane, and the road where we set up has angled parking places, angled, of course, in the direction of traffic. That means, to back the truck into a parking place near where my space is, I have to drive - hopefully - into a vacant parking place across the street from where I want to park. Now, keep in mind, the parking places are angled, so the angles are completely different - one zigs, the other zags. While I'm doing this, I've got traffic stopped in both directions, watching and waiting for me to get my big ol' truck (OK, so it's really not that big, unless you're used to driving a compact sporty car) out of the street. Of course, there are never 2 or 3 empty parking places so I can be as messy a parker as I want to be. No, I'm stuck squeezing my truck in between two cars, hoping and praying I don't hit the cars on either side, and also hoping my trailer hitch doesn't hit the tree behind me.

28 April 2008

New Soaps

I made my first batch of cold process soaps on Friday. For those who aren't so familiar with soap jargon, cold process soaps are the old-fashioned lye soaps. The idea of working with the lye was intimidating at first, but I just used all the safety precautions and had no problems whatsoever. This first batch is completely all natural - colored a pretty pumpkin orange with paprika and scented with a ginger bergamot essential oil blend. I'll probably scent some batches in the future with fragrance oils just to get rid of them to make room for more essential oils. (My storage space is getting a bit crowded.) Today I ordered a couple of ultramarine pigments, beautiful, rich, natural colorants. Tomorrow I'll likely buy some spices to use for other natural colorants.

The soaps came out of the mould today - rather ungracefully. That's the last time I use a plastic mould for CP! I was able to hand-mould them into something approximating rectangles and can trim them when they're cured in a few weeks. I'm excited about this new adventure in soapmaking and look forward to expanding this product line as part of my business. Start looking for these on my site around late May and early June.

27 April 2008


One of the joys of my business is how I keep coming up with new and great (well, I think they're great, anyway) products that will bring only good things to my customers. I believe that every person - man, woman, young and old - deserves high quality bath and body products. No one should have to settle for inferior products that are produced overseas in sweatshops and that are bad for your skin. Sensuality is also important and often terribly overlooked. When people hear the word "sensuality," they think it's dirty somehow, referring to carnal pleasures only. While carnal pleasures can indeed be very sensual, I'd like to encourage you to open your mind to envision what else falls under this umbrella of "sensual pleasures."

Sensual pleasures are all those things we enjoy perceiving through our senses. What do you delight in seeing? Your spouse? A sunset? Your child at play? The mountains in fall as they're burnished with brightly colored leaves? What do you like to hear? The sound of rain on the roof. The ocean lapping gently at the shore. A well-played piece of classical music. What tastes good to you? The way a bite of cheesecake melts on your tongue. The spices in a perfect piece of fried chicken. A juicy, red, ripe strawberry, just picked off the plant and still warm from the sun. None of these are bad things, and enjoying them isn't bad, either.

While my products do engage you visually, their highest appeal comes in their scent and texture. Or maybe they take you to a new level of sensuality, more of a psychic sensuality - that satisfaction and contentment that comes only in knowing you're doing something special for yourself. What smells good to you? What feels good? Can you imagine using a naturally scented product that captures you, wrapping you in aromatherapy benefits? Envision how soft and silky your skin would feel after using a shea butter and sugar scrub. Sink into a warm bath, fragranced with a deluxe herb blend and nourished with goat's milk. These, too, are good experiences.

I offer experiences like this. When was the last time you actually enjoyed the soap you bathe with? When did you last like the way it treated your skin and made you feel? How long has it been since lotion was more of a luxury than a need to treat dry, damaged skin? Do you even remember the last time you allowed yourself the time to take a tub bath? I invite you to enjoy bath and shower time again. Treat yourself to mini spa treatments as you use my Revitalizing Body Polish, a luxurious shea butter and sugar scrub. Enjoy a 30-... Oh, go ahead, put the kids to bed, tell your spouse to give you some privacy and make it an hour-long vacation as you soak in an aromatherapy bath with a bath tea bag, allowing all your stresses and troubles to drown themselves in warm water, only to be swept down the drain with the bath water when you're done. Bathe with soap that wakes up your senses, giving you a little boost for the day ahead. You really do deserve it.

Flipping for the Flops and Running for the Son

Motorcycles, Jesus, soaps and flip flops. It'd seem that in no way, form or fashion, these would never go together. Yet, they have and they'll continue to do so for the next few days.

These flip flops are my newest soap creations, and they're selling faster and better than even I had imagined (and I'm very positive about my products). In fact, I sold 24 of these soaps in 21 days!!! One of my soaper friends, as I was sharing my excitement over these soaps' popularity, said, "You could say people are flipping over your flops." That they are. Two of them are scented with custom scent blends (the purple and blue flowered ones) and the third (pink flower) is scented with a delightful Victoria's Secret (type) scent - Sexy Little Things.

OK, so I've tied in flip flops and soap, but how about motorcycles and Jesus, and what in the world do they have to do with the first two? My dad's in a Christian motorcyle group (Christian Motorcyclists' Association - http://www.cmausa.org/), and this coming Saturday, 3 May, is their annual Run for the Son, an event to help raise money that will enable Christian bikers all over the world to share the love of God with people.

My dad has bought a few of these soaps to give to his home health patients and colleagues, and I decided, since he's been supporting my business in this way, both in buying soaps and spreading my business name to people outside my immediate selling area, that I'd support this ministry that is so near and dear to his heart. I've decided to give a generous portion from the sales of these soaps to sponsor him in Run for the Son. So far, my friends, family and customers have helped raise nearly $100.00, just in the past 3 weeks since these soaps debuted. The sale of just two more soaps will get us over the $100.00 mark. Think we can do it? I do!

Each soap costs $6.00 (plus tax for fellow North Carolinians) and weighs a hefty 5 3/4 ounces. To give you a basis of comparison, a standard store-bought "bath bar" (which isn't actually soap at all) weighs about 3 1/2 ounces. My soaps are handcrafted in small batches, using only the finest glycerin bases available. So, if you feel compelled to actually use them, then know you'll be bathing with a delightfully moisturizing bar of "real soap," as one of my customers calls them.

My website - http://www.sarassoapsnsuch.com/ - is one payment module bug away from being completely ready to go. However, feel free to browse it, and if you'd like to order the flip flops or any other products you see, you can pay through Paypal at orders@sarassoapsnsuch.com.